Living on the Edge: Current Status of Rare Sulu Endemic Avifauna

  • Journal of Environmental Science and Management
  • Wilhelmus van de Ven
  • Richard Muallil
  • Nikki Dyanne Realubit
Keywords: avifauna, Sulu Hornbill, Sulu Bleeding-heart, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu


The Sulu Archipelago, consisting of hundreds of islands, harbors unique and distinct endemic avian fauna. Due to the relatively small size of the islands and the rapid deforestation, many of these species are in danger of extinction. Some of the endemic bird species in the Sulu Archipelago have not been observed in the wild for decades and may already have gone extinct without being noticed. This study uses available information to describe the current status of endemic bird species in the area. Most of the information were gathered from anecdotal reports of birdwatchers who visited the area since very few scientific surveys have been done there. All of the Sulu endemic bird species are forest dependent and categorized as threatened on the IUCN Red List. The Sulu Bleeding-heart Gallicolumba menagei has not been recorded for over a century. The Sulu Hornbill Anthrococeros montani may have no more than 20 pairs left in the wild and not much more is known of the Sulu Hawk-Owl Ninox reyi apart from its name and call. The rapidly disappearing forests, combined with hunting and mining, make the Sulu Archipelago arguably one of the highest priority sites for conservation in the country. The Sulu Archipelago is not only located at the geographical edge of the Philippines, but it is also where unique species are on the edge of extinction. Immediate in situ conservation and comprehensive surveys of the avifaunal diversity in the Sulu Archipelago are urgently needed.